2018 Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award Winner

Nicki Newman Tanner

The Board of Trustees of the American Jewish Historical Society presented the 2018 Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award to Nicki Newman Tanner on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. The evening started with cocktails and dinner; followed by a program featuring guest speaker Esther Schor, author of National Jewish Book Award Winner Emma Lazarus, and a musical performance by Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Senior Rabbi of New York City’s Central Synagogue; and concluded with a dessert reception. 

In honoring Nicki Newman Tanner, AJHS honors a remarkable leader, an “active listener” who engaged hundreds of leading American Jewish figures and captured their oral histories as the founding director of the UJA–Federation of Jewish Philanthropies Oral History Project. Those oral histories now reside with AJHS as part of the UJA-Federation Collection, and this Project captures the philanthropic spirit and values of American Jews in the 20th century. Per AJHS Executive Director Annie Polland PhD, “We are grateful that Nicki’s work and her attention to storytelling are a vital part of AJHS, and we are deeply honored to bestow her with this year’s Award.”

Nicki Newman Tanner grew up in Chicago and graduated from Wellesley College with a BA in English in 1957. After marrying Harold Tanner, they moved to Los Angeles where their three children – David, James, and Karen – were all born.

In 1967, the family moved to New York, where Nicki and Harold have resided ever since. In 1980 Nicki received a certificate in Oral History from Columbia University, and in 1981 she became founding director of the UJA–Federation of Jewish Philanthropies Oral History Project, which she ran for more than 20 years. She has also conducted interviews for oral histories both for Columbia’s Oral History Archive and as freelance projects, preserving the stories of Lives of a Cell author Lewis Thomas and Commissioner of Parks Gordon Davis, as well as the histories of the Salvation Army, Pace University, Manhattanville College, and The Hastings Center.

Nicki is a founding board member of the Jewish Women’s Archive and served as board chair from 2004 until 2007. She is currently a trustee of New York Public Radio and Auburn Seminary, an organization devoted to the education of multi-faith leadership, and she has served on the boards of Colonial Williamsburg and Hebrew Union College.

As a board member of Wellesley College, she co-chaired their record breaking capital campaign that concluded in 1993, having raised $168 million from alumnae and disproving the assumption that women give less than men. In 2000 she established the annual Tanner Conference at Wellesley to celebrate experiential learning and Wellesley students’ participation in the larger world.

Nicki has written and spoken on both oral history and women’s philanthropy. She and her husband take particular pleasure in their family of 6 (adult) children and 8 (mostly adult) grandsons.

Dinner Chair and Honorary Committee

Dinner Chairs

Bernard Michael and Haina Just-Michael

Dinner Host Committee

Karen Tanner
Allen and Kent Allen
Rabbi Angela Buchdahl
Betty and Stuart Cotton
Rabbis Jacqueline Koch Ellenson
and David Ellenson
Bette and Peter Fishbein
Friedman Family Foundation
Max and Elisabeth Gitter
Louise and James Greilsheimer
Nessa Rapoport and Tobi Kahn
Nancy and Samuel Karetsky
Ruth and Sid Lapidus
Shari Levy

Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr.
Joanne and Norman Matthews
Sandra and Edward Meyer
Louise P. Rosenfeld
Ellen and Paul Roth
Susan and Bruce Schlechter
Moses Silverman and Betty Robbins
Flo and Warren Sinsheimer
Bruce Slovin
Susan Stern
David and Peggy Tanner
Catherine Allegra and James Tanner
Elaine and Alan Weiler
Hedy Zankel

Other Award Laureates

Avital Sharansky

2013 Award Recipient

Simon Schama

2014 Award Recipient

Amb. John L. Loeb, Jr.

2015 Award Recipient

Larry King & Brett Ratner

2016 Award Recipient